From Prada's 'A Clockwork Orange'inspired jumpsuits and makeup to Gucci's uncanny twins on the runway, Kubrick is the main character of the season.
Fashion designers are very much in their cinephile era right now. Alessandro Michele, an avid movie buff, extended the Gucci-verse’s Hollywood vision to Steven Spielberg’s weird 80s Christmas film Gremlins. Nicolas Winding Refn designed an eerie dystopian panopticon that smacked of one of the director’s messed-up thrillers to showcase Prada’s SS23 collection. Then there’s Saint Laurent, who are currently funding Pedro Almodóvar to make the super gay and horny western of his dreams, which he unsuccessfully pitched as the plot to Brokeback Mountain two decades ago.
But no filmmaker has been living rent free in the minds of fashion’s big designers recently quite like Stanley Kubrick. Considered by many to be the greatest filmmaker of all time, his movies have spun instantly-recognisable fashions. Think: those red heart-shaped Lolita (1962) glasses; the bowler hats, white boiler suits, braces and underwear-as-outerwear of the Droogs in A Clockwork Orange (1971); and the comfy, wintry dad fits of Jack Torrance and Gucci-esque baby-doll dresses sported by the twins in The Shining (1977).
Then there’s Alessandro Michele, whose overtly Kubrick-inspired AW22 campaign by Mert and Marcus saw models wearing Gucci’s Adidas collaboration seamlessly enter the cinematic universe crafted by Kubrick in painstaking recreations of his sets, with the help of the director’s costume designer, Milena Canonero. A girl in the hooded knit three-stripe crop top and matching trousers plays with Danny Torrance on the Overlook Hotel’s instantly recognisable psychedelic carpet. Two models — one in tailored jockey gear, the other in a cape and beret — hang out amongst the 19th century gentry of Barry Lyndon (1975), ready to find a rich, devastated English widow to marry.
The brand’s SS23 show, however, took a subtly Kubrick-ian turn towards the uncanny as 68 sets of twins eerily walked the runway in matching tailored suit chaps, sequinned fish jackets and frilly silk pussy bow dresses — a more grown-up version of the iconic blue dresses adorning the creepy twins who roam the Overlook’s corridors.
Speaking of those creepy identical girlies, they (or should we say their now mid-50s-aged actors Lisa and Louise Burns) were spotted at the hottest ticket of the London Fashion Week SS23 schedule: the queue to see the late queen lying in state. Who knows, maybe inside her closed coffin the queen was wearing Moschino AW22 — a collection of inanimate household objects turned into fashion, from clock handbags and quilted armchair dresses to lampshade and candelabra headpieces, with cutlery detailing throughout; all then presented in a replica of the French provincial hotel room from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It’s not that much of a stretch, given that Hardy Amies, costume designer for the movie, was a favourite of HRH herself and crafted her signature aesthetic.
Kubrick also made an appearance at New York Fashion Week too. Amongst the chaotic mix of Y2K butterflies and Dante’s Inferno-inspired prints, Puppets and Puppets SS23 was an ode to the sexually empowered NYC woman, the kind who storms through her Raya likes whilst picking up a Starbies matcha latte on the way to her bookstyling gig. To convey that energy, the artsy label looked to Nicole Kidman’s character Alice in Kubrick’s final movie, the incredibly-horny psychological drama Eyes Wide Shut (1999). A sheer camisole top made out of a lacy fabric and a matching pair of ultra high-cut briefs — reminiscent of Alice’s famed lingerie scene — appeared on the runway with a pair of work-ready black pumps. Elsewhere, look closely at trousers, dresses and two-piece tailored suits and you’ll see an orgy of naked bodies — a reference to the sexual drama at the heart of Nicole and Tom Cruise’s relationship in the movie.
This is not, however, the first time we’ve seen the Kubrick-isation of the runway. For his SS18 offering at Calvin Klein, Raf Simons designed a set that referenced many iconic movies of the past — including Jack Torrance’s infamous axe from The Shining. Nearly 20 years prior, Alexander McQueen showed his AW99 collection, Overlook, on a stunning recreation of the deathly snow maze outside the terrifying hotel. His SS07 collection, too, noted Barry Lyndon as an influence for the dramatic flower-shedding garms. Jean Paul Gaultier and his cone bra, suspenders and bowler hat for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour in 1991 were clearly impacted by A Clockwork Orange, while Louis Vuitton AW20 worked with the prolific Milena Canonero (the Gucci AW22 campaign collaborator) to create period garments dating from the 15th century to the 1950s to an imagined future, that patchworked together in a time-defying collection.
A key theme of The Shining was the idea of traces: “When some things happen, it can leave other traces behind. Not things anyone can notice, but things that only people with shine can see,” says Dick Hallorann, the telepathic head chef. Similarly, Kubrick and his team’s detailed and intricate worlds have left a mammoth trace on our culture, both within cinema and the wider arts. For designers, exploring his movies not only allows for the creation of nostalgic collections with fun period pieces, it also delves into Kubrick’s commentary on sex, violence and social norms that is still relevant (maybe even more so) to this day.
“[Kubrick was] a philosophic filmmaker who, better than others, emanated the magic of that inextricable knot through which cinema exudes life and magnifies it,” Alessandro wrote in the release of Gucci’s AW22 campaign. “Every film, in fact, digests the manifold souls where dystopia meets parody, drama becomes human comedy, horror looks like a psycho-philosophic treatise, the feeling of truth evolves into the uncanny. Kubrick was, in essence, a real sculptor of genres: the “cross-genre” director, ahead of his time.”